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tv   [untitled]    July 9, 2012 11:00am-11:30am EDT

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background. given that background, how are different candidates framing their ideas of national security and what is the lens that they look through? i think it's a fair reading of governor romney's position to say he's looking at the concept of americans in the world as american exceptionalism. let me tell you what i mean by that by some of the governor's speeches. you can tell foreign policy isn't a predominant issue because the last speech romney gave on national security was during the south carolina -- early in the primary season. october 7th, 2011. what does romney say there? we're exceptional because we are a nation founded on precious idea that was birthed in the american revolution and
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propounded by our greatest statesmen in the fundamental documents. we are a people who threw off the yoke of tyranny. later in the speech he goes on to say god did not create this country to be a nation of followers. america is not destined to be one of several equally balanced global powers. america must lead in the world or someone else will. so this idea of american exceptionalism that there is something about our country and the way we reform and the values that we develop and our history over the course of 200 plus years and how we have acted that gives us a special and in some ways he mentioned a god given role in the world to promote both peace and security but also our own values. values of democracy. values of free and open speech. economic exchange. freedom of religion.
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equality between peoples. and i think the idea of american exceptionalism also connotes that america has both special responsibilities. here he says america must lead not that we should lead but that we must. and so special responsibilities to in some ways parole the world and make it safe for commerce and make it safe for free expression and free enterprise. but then somehow america because of our military might and economic power, we also have some special rights that perhaps attach to that. so the idea that we can act unilaterally more than other nations can, that while we welcome the role that international institutions can play and that alliances provide,
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if those national institutions or alliances are not serving american history, we can go at it alone. while president obama has also said that we will act unilaterally than we must. american exceptionalism is an important and highlighted feature of this way of thinking about the world. so what about president obama? governor romney criticizes obama because obama was asked at one point do you think america is an exceptional nation? obama said, well, i think we are an exceptional nation but in the same sense as the british probably think that they are british exceptionalism and other countries think that they are exceptional as well. so romney has mocked that as saying we are not part equally balanced and we're first among nations. what is obama's frame? a lot of scholars have struggled to define a "obama doctrine." he's very much a pragmatist and
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one that his difficult to pigeo hole him. what i believe is the best description for obama and frame we can look at through his policies is he believes in u.s. leadership and certainly in the promotion of u.s. american values and principles but in recognizing that we do live in a multipolar world. a world that has problems that are global in nature, that america while we're the prominent military and prominent economic power, other nations have those powers that they can apply to international affairs. we need to operate in the world not as we might wish it is, which is that america can do everything we want, but in the world that it is which is that america is the most powerful
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nation in the world with ybut wt impose our will as much as we would like in many places and that we're much better off and capable of advancing our interests if we're acting in conjunction and in partnership with other powerful nations around the world. so a taste of president obama's rhetoric. he says -- this is from his speech accepting the nobel prize in 2009. america's commitment to global security will never waivver butn a world which threats are more diffuse and missions more complex, america cannot act alone. i don't think you would hear governor romney look at foreign affairs in that way. and another important speech, this time before the united nations general assembly last september. we believe that each nation must chart its own course to fulfill the aspiration of its people.
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america does not expect to agree with every party or person who expresses themselves politically but we'll always stand up for the universal rights that were embraced by this assembly. that is what our people deserve. so president obama identifies what we say as american values as being universal ones. he says that we are committed to advancing those principles but we understand that we live in a diverse world and that we cannot impose our will and that partnerships and outreach and working through international organizations is the best way to advance american interests. so through that -- through those lenses, through those frames, i would like to look a little bit more at how -- i started talking about this already.
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what are the lines of attack? how is romney going to go after the obama record and then we'll look vice versa. first, romney is going to argue that obama is a declinist. what do i mean by that? he's going to argue that obama because he's not willing to assert american exceptionalism means he believes in american decline. we're not the number one nation in the world. that china is asserting itself and taking over. we're willing to give power and leadership. in libya we led from behind. he will say that's not good for america or good for the world. he'll try to argue that obama is naive and talk about how obama wanted to engage with our
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enemies believing that trying to work things out in dialogue even with countries like iran and venezuela and cuba and north korea was a possible success, that that is a naive approach and that our enemies are always going to try to take advantage of us and that negotiation -- the only way they can be influenced is by assertion of american power and action rather than dialogue and talk. he'll try to characterize obama as naive in that regard. and then he'll say that the successes of the administration have had especially killing of osama bin laden and success against al qaeda were not because of anything obama did, but because he followed the prescription and footprint and counterterrorism established by the bush administration since 9/11 and the successes are not due to him but because the
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frame work had been established prior to him taking office. i think those are going to be the main lines of the romney argument against obama. where is my slide? okay. what are some of the arguments that he's going to be -- the issues that he'll use to try to support these lines of argument? first, that obama tried to close guantanamo bay. this was naive. wrong. he was forced not to do it by the congress and by public opinion and criticize him in that regard. as i said, he tried to reach out to ahmadinejad in iran to deal with the nuclear program. he was rebuffed and romney will say this showed american weakness and lack of resolve. obama has cut the military budget. again, another sign that he doesn't believe in american exceptionalism and that we
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should be spending more on the military and not less. he'll argue that we have not been a firm ally to israel and this is evidence of obama's failure to support our allies and be an assertive national global leader. he'll argue that we have fallen behind economically because we've allowed china to predominate on international trade issues and we've not been tough enough on china. and at least early on he said, well, we're withdrawali withdra quickly from afghanistan and not listen to commanders on the ground and that he would listen to commanders and keep more troops in afghanistan to try to maintain the gains that we have made since our troops were inserted after 9/11. he's really backed off that
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position quite a bit since then but that was one of the arguments he had been making. this was part of the romney -- the evidence romney will use to try to support that frame that i mentioned earlier. one of the problems with romney's argument? i think in many regards he and many republican politicians and strategists were really eager to essentially run against not the obama that's been president for the piers 3 1/2 years, but the obama who was running for president back in 2008. they want to run against this inexperienced, young person who had never been in a role of national security leadership before, who made statements about engaging with foreign enemies.
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but unfortunately for them, obama 2012 version after having been president for 3 1/2 years has a strong record that he can use to deflect all of those charges relating to weakness naivety. neither of those places while not stable and secure like we would like them to be, they haven't resolved into crisis. successful international intervention in libya. tough sanctions against iran in regards to the nuclear program. being on the right side of history in the arab spring and allowing those protests and some of the fall of some of the dictators to take place. the decimation and
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strong record on counterterrorism. a nuclear weapons reduction treaty with russia. balanced relationships where we don't get everything we with an a want and they don't get everything they want. this is a fairly strong record that does not show weakness or decline or erosion of our place in the world. so those are some of the reasons i don't think this will be an effective line of attack for romney. killing bin laden and successful campaign against al qaeda blunts those questions of weakness. nobody will want to listen to minor issues when they know that the president took these
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actions. and finally i think the american exceptionalism of u.s. leading to police the world against all evils and asserting our values and ideas across the world, it doesn't really jive with an america that's fairly war weary after a decade of conflict that we've put a lot of time, resources, of course the lives of our troops, the time of the families and a general sense that we need to focus on rebuilding at home. i think that undercuts the residence of a lot of these arguments that seem to suggest we should assert our power in foreign lands and while obama certainly is not an isolationist. obama obama and romney are internationalists i believe, but this war weariness will undercut these arguments and help obama
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on issues of iran which i'll speak about later. nonetheless, does the president have vulnerabilities in foreign policy? i think the answer to that is yes. i think a lot of them relate to the economic argument. i think that romney will try to hit obama on foreign policy in ways that resonate the story that he's trying to tell about problems with the economy. so for example, europe while obama has very little that he can do about that, virtually nothing, he will argue that obama pursues a european style welfare state with excessive government debt and spending and look at what happened and happening in europe is a model for what will happen here unless we change leadership and change course. i think that will resonate with the electorate. likewise, i think the idea of a rising china is something that unsettles a lot of people.
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it feeds into economic anxiety. and romney of course is not president so for him talk is cheap. bashing china, saying they are using unfair trade practices, that they are not devaluing the currency to make american products cheaper and for the inability for us to infiltrate as much market in china as we like and then the idea that china is a growing power on the international stage, all of which feeds into a little bit of u.s. economic anxiety and fear about being overtaken and that our jobs are going elsewhere. obama says some tough things about the chinese as well but this is the disadvantage of being president. he has to weigh and balance our concerns about china's activities and the global
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economy with other things like getting support in the united nations for actions with respect to iran, the north korea nuclear program and a whole host of issues that we need to work together with the chinese on and so he has less liberty to essentially bash china. romney can say what he wants and then once if he gets into office totally change course and it won't matter. i think this is an issue you'll hear a lot and it could have some sort of impact in places where there's a lot of concern about labor and trade and things like that like ohio. the issue for defense spending is bread and butter republican thing. defense spending is the only type of government stimulus that republicans like. it's in many respects a jobs program. we do in my view spend more than
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we need on defense. president obama in his efforts to try to come up with a budget package to reduce our long-term debt has committed to reducing military spending by $487 billion over the next ten years. romney says he'll reverse those cuts and make the army bigger, increase ship building and increase procurement and again that's a pretty costless thing for romney to be able to say. i don't think he'll be penalized for being a reckless spender by many for doing that. it's good for jobs and those that live in communities, that's a potent economic argument that romney will be able to use effectively in some communities. and i think finally the issue of
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u.s./israel relations will be an important one in this campaign. obama got off to a bad start in this regard when he made the demand that the israelis freeze their settlement activity outside of the 67 borders and that was bluntly rejected by the netanyahu government and led to the determination essentially of the palestinian/israeli peace talks which have for the been able to be restarted. now, i think romney in some regards does not understand the diversity of jewish vote on this issue. there are many jewish voters to kind of reflexively say that any criticism of israel is bad and won't support candidates that do that. i do think there are others who
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have been somewhat disappointed with some of the actions of israel. israel's deep supporters but not unconditionally so. there is some diversity of opinions on jews on this question but the bad start that obama got off to resonated with some core population and it shows up in the polls. obama got 74% of the jewish vote in 2008. recent polls show erosion of 10 to 15 points in the jewish vote and that could hurt obama, i think, especially in the jewish vote that's concentrated in a couple of important states and i think florida being a swing state and i think you have an older jewish population there which would be maybe more sensitive to these difficult questions of u.s./israeli relations. now, interestingly, obama's
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approval ratings in israel itself were very low after this incident but really rebounded in the last couple of years partly because of obama's strong veto of efforts to get a palestinian state resolution through the united nations. had a very strong position on that. and then some of his recent statements about willing to use force against iran if necessary to stop its nuclear program. so in some ways, obama has rebounded very nicely and is pretty popular in israel these days but i still think he'll have problems with pockets of the jewish population and that's an electoral issue. okay. what is obama going to say about romney? as i said, first i think obama unlike in his economic platform where the economy is not doing as well as he would like and it's harder to run on his record, i think he's going to just run on his record of achievement in foreign policy and he's going to make the argument that romney's foreign
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policy is a return to george w. bush and bush's popularity increased upticked a bit recently but he left office unpopular with respect to his foreign policy. obama will argue that he inherited a mess in many places. less secure world and he's made it more secure. romney is advocating pretty much the same policies as george w. bush and will try to paint him as being reckless, too quick to use force, and the like. one more direct line of attack that was tried already was romney did make some statements saying that he didn't think we should gallivant around the world and spend billions of dollars to find one person. he criticized obama's statements that he would go inside pakistan and after bin laden took place during the 2008 campaign. and obama will try to truck that out to show that romney is not
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tough on terrorism. and then i think he'll try to make the argument that romney in some ways is trapped in the past. maybe making a youth versus someone who is older but romney's statements that russia is our number one geopolitical foe was mocked by a lot of people in the foreign policy establishment including a lot of republicans. the arms control agreement had a very strong bipartisan support and from a lot of republican foreign policy establishment who is surprised at romney making a loose statement like that. do we have interest with russia? of course not. are we rivals to some degree? sure. are we upset about russia's autocratic tendencies of late? absolutely. does that make us a number one
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geopolitical foe? i think most people might see that as being somewhat out of touch and irresponsible in that regard. we might hear something about that. what are some weaknesses in obama's argument? i think it will be hard to disqualify romney as not being qualified. first of all, he still benefits from the notion that just because you are a republican you're going to be strong on national security. he's intelligence. he's been -- he's led large organizations. i think people will think of him as a good manager. i think romney is going to get over the threshold test, and the obama campaign trucked out this argument that romney wouldn't have tried to go after bin laden the same way that obama did. i don't think that really worked all that well when it was trucked out in may. that line of attack probably won't be very effective.
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does romney have vulnerabilities on this score? yes, i think so. number one, an incumbent has air force one effect. romney can't do that. obama is consistently going to try to make himself out or take instances where he's going to try to to be a strong leader, demonstrate himself as being the global figure with the authority of air force one. making national security decisions. things like he did about going to afghanistan and announcing agreement to withdraw troops but commit to long-term future of afghanistan and having the nato summit in chicago recently. these things are going to keep taking place over the course of the election. generally they occur to the advantage of the incumbent but of course there could be crisis or things that make foreign affairs issues that don't go the way we might like like economic crisis in europe and of course the incumbent is then held
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responsibility for those things whether or not he had anything to do with it. that's a mixed bag but i think in general that advantage accruise to the president. i think we'll see him tone that down to a large regard while he keeps advocating for military spending, i think he's not going to make a lot of noise about afghanistan or iraq. i think he said enough on that record to maybe hurt him a little bit during this election campaign. and to the extent that romney has advocated things that make him sound a lot like george bush, like this american exceptionalism argument, morphing into bush is not a good way for romney to go. i don't think the american
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public's recognition of the bush years on international affairs as being good ones. the idea that we should have kept troops in iraq longer even though the iraqis no longer wanted us and that troops should stay in afghanistan indefinitely despite the very difficult situation we have there achieving our goals, and strangely enough, i think republicans really feel like iran is an issue that goes to their view of their benefit. obama is weak. he's not willing to use force. he wanted to reach out to ahmadinejad. i actually think the president has a pretty good record here that's one the american public at this point is pretty comfortable with. number one, he used covert action to try to boly up the nuclear program in essence. he organized international community to the extent that
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president bush could not on tougher and tougher sanctions some of which will take place in the next couple months. this has actually brought iran back to the negotiating table on this issue and i don't think the american public while it wants leaders to say military action is never off the table, i really don't think that americans are anxious or eager to get engaged in the third land war in the middle east in this decade. ironically, i think republicans thought they would be able to use iran to fit their paradigm, i think it fits the obama paradigm pretty well. we're asserting leadership. we're working in conjunction with our partners. we're keeping the idea of force on the table. we're using diplomacy. we're using diplomatic sanctions. we're working within the united nations frame work to try to achieve our objectives. i think it's begin to show fruit
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in iran and i think the public is going to generally support that approach. so that leaves us with the two individuals. the american public is going to find that they would both be credible national leaders. they certainly have a differing outlook, which will be explored during this election campaign. i think niche issues could be vulnerabilities for the president, but romney's framing of the world and the ability of obama to tie him to failed policies of previous president may be of an advantage to the president. that's my analysis. with that, i would be happy to engage in dialogue with you. [ applause ]


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